Favorite Recipes of 2014

Fav 2014 Recipes

Well guys, 2014 is quickly coming to a close. It started off here with one of my favorite pasta salads, got momentum with this Coconut-Lovers Cake, and flew off with this delicious (and patriotic!) Fourth Of July Cheesecake; and that was only the beginning! Need I remind you of these delicious Peach Hand-Pies (O Summer Fruits, wherefore art thou Summer fruits?), an easy and healthy Quinoa Enchilada Casserole, the real-deal Enchiladas, and my favorite Chocolate Tart. And that, my friends, is only a small snapshot of the recipes!

Wondering which recipes were the most popular? I’ve listed the top 5 below!

Continue reading Favorite Recipes of 2014

Make Your Own Granola!


It all started about a year ago when my sister made a batch of granola according to a recipe she had found in a magazine. It was love at first bite. I knew I had to make my own batch of this versatile mix; and I’m so glad I did! Granola has become one of my favorite breakfasts (pancakes and scones can’t be forgotten :) ) and snacks!


This basic recipe opens up a world of endless variations and combinations: like cranberries, add it in! Don’t like pecans? Add walnuts. Don’t like any kind of nut? Leave it out. Get creative!


In my granola I added mixed nuts (pecans, cashews, almonds, etc), shredded coconut, raisins, and dried figs.  Make sure to add in dried fruits after the granola is baked; I once mixed in the dried fruits before baking, resulting in some hard pieces of fruit. Don’t make my mistake– unless, you know, you like hard pieces of fruit.


Eat with milk, top yogurt with it, or eat it by itself! Whichever way, it’s pure deliciousness :)

Make Your Own Granola!
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a basic recipe for granola; there's an endless world of variations and combinations. Get creative!
Serves: about 3 cups
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup mix-ins (nuts, dried fruits, etc), chopped when necessary
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • honey, to taste*
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Mix together the rolled oats, mix-ins (except the dried fruits), and coconut oil. Spread in a baking pan** and bake for about 45 minutes, mixing every 10-15 minutes.
  3. After baking, mix in the dried fruits and cool before storing in an airtight container.
*Coming from a family that doesn't like very sweet granola, I only used 1 tbsp of honey
** I used a 9x13 baking pan; any pan will work, but baking time may differ


THE Best Hot Chocolate

Hot Choco 5

*belts out “It’s the MOST WONDERFUL TIIIME OF THE YEEEEAR”* Am I the only one who’s ECSTATIC about the fact that it’s only TWO MORE WEEKS till CHRISTMAS!? Yeah, I didn’t think so; maybe I just have a harder time keeping it in.

Over the years I’ve become quite the hot chocolate connoisseur (I admit it: I had to look up the spelling of that word…) Cinnamon, oh yeahh. Nutmeg, yes please! Cloves, bring it on. Ginger, just a tad. Vanilla, can’t leave that out! Hot chocolate is sooo much more than just the usual cocoa, sugar, and milk (don’t get me started on what I think about using water instead; it’s a big no no) Those three ingredients are just the base, the starting point. And then you add in all the spices you like! The result: true comfort food (er, drink)

Hot Choco 2

Last week (the week before finals) I made myself a cup of hot chocolate (almost) every day. I mean, seriously, how do you except me to get through studying without my hot chocolate or tea? You don’t, that’s what. (Speaking about school: I have my last final tomorrow and BAM! I’m done with this fall semester *happy dance*)


Hot Choco 3

Not only is this hot chocolate a party for your tastebuds, it’s also dangerously easy to make! Just mix up all the ingredients (except the milk); then stir in the hot milk and that’s that! Whipped cream goes really well with it, just sayin’ (it also melts very quickly, as evidenced in the above photo)

Hot Choco 1

And one last random thing: is this or is this not the cutest Christmas napkin! It’s very comforting, too 😉

THE Best Hot Chocolate
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Not only is this hot chocolate a party for your tastebuds, it's also dangerously easy to make! Top with whipped cream and enjoy!
Serves: 1-2 mugs
  • 4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • dash of cloves
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp honey (or sugar), more to taste
  • 1½ cups milk
  1. Heat the milk on medium-low heat until it begins to simmer.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a mug.
  3. Add a teaspoon of milk to the mug and stir until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add the rest of the milk and stir.
  5. Serve with whipped cream and sip on this deliciousness!
*If making two mugs, just divide the dry ingredients between the two mugs and add ½ tsp of hot milk to each, stir, and then add in the rest of the milk


Misadventures With Frozen Blueberries

I told you guys I would share with you my adventures in the kitchen (the good and not so good). Well, this was a not so good adventure. Don’t get me wrong, the scones tasted delicious! It’s just…well….I kinda sorta may or may not have made a mistake with the blueberries. I knew frozen blueberries could give off an unpleasant look when mixed into dough, but, for some reason, I thought it would be ok. And it was ok. I quickly mixed in the blueberries and stepped back in triumph: they hadn’t let any ugly color out! So I put the dough in the fridge.

Misadventures with frozen blueberries 1

And then I took it out and stared down at the grayish-blue dough. Fail. What went wrong? Well,apparently while the dough was in the fridge the blueberries slowly began to thaw and turn the dough from a lovely white color to a not-so-lovely color. I seriously thought about not sharing these with anyone in an attempt to forget about them…I mean, they were purple–seriously.

Misadventures with frozen blueberries 3  The purple color kinda wore off in the oven (thankfully; I’m not sure how my little brother would have reacted if I had offered him purple triangles to try..) Still, not the prettiest scones, but so, so tasty! Definitely not sharing the recipe with you guys at this point– unless you want purplish scones.

So, in addition to overmixing frozen blueberries, keeping the dough in the fridge will also result in ugly colors. Lesson duly noted.

Green Bean Side

Green Bean Side 4 Thanksgiving is in two weeks. TWO WEEKS, people! My pulse is already quickening in the anticipation of the turkey, cranberry sauce (one of my favorites (if not my favorite)), stuffing, gravy, green beans, pies, rolls, and so much more! I. Cannot. Wait.

During our Thanksgiving feasts, I’ve realized my family and I go through this routine: on the first round we try to sample a little bit of everything and  then on our second and third and fourth and I-lost-track rounds we only get our favorite foods, as if we know our stomachs will go on strike soon so we better get what we really like now before it’s too late. Anyone else like that?

So, that story has absolutely nothing to do with this recipe, except for the fact that this side goes fabulously with turkey (and cranberry sauce!!) And I am dead serious when I say it’s super easy. Don’t believe me? Green Bean Side 1 Chop up some carrots, bell pepper, and garlic.

And then take a weirdly-angled shot of it

Ok, fine, that step’s optional

Green Bean Side 2 Heat oil in a pan, add in the green beans, veggies, salt, and pepper, and stir-fry until the veggies have softened but are still crunchy.

And BAM! Done. Seriously. Dead Seriously. Green Bean Side 3 This is definitely an all-year-round kinda side dish. I served it up with white rice and Teriyaki chicken (I used this recipe’s marinade for the chicken, then baked the chicken in a lightly-greased baking pan at around 375F for about half an hour (flip the chicken a few times so it cooks evenly))

Green Bean Side

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Green Bean Side

An easy and delicious side that every Thanksgiving table needs!


  • 2-3 cups green beans (if frozen, thaw)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper (optional)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan; saute the garlic until aromatic.
  2. Add in the rest of the vegetables and saute on high until soft but still crunchy (about 10 minutes).
  3. Season with salt and pepper and a bit more olive oil.
  4. Serve immediately.

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Guys, you have to try these enchiladas. That’s not a comment; that’s a command. They are de-licious! A little more time-consuming than the Quinoa Enchilada Casserole I made a while back, but you need to find time to make these–100% worth it! (If you can’t make them tonight, try the Quinoa Enchilada Casserole. And then, tomorrow or next week, make the real-deal enchiladas–you won’t regret it, trust me)

Chicken Enchiladas1

And, again, I use my favorite pepper grinder! Gotta love an old-fashioned grinder

Chicken Enchiladas 2

Anyways, back to these enchiladas! Cook the chicken on medium-heat;  before flipping over, spice it up with chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder and oregano. Once cooked, spice the other side up with the same spices, and then remove from the heat.

In the same pan cook the veggies and tomato sauce until the sauce thickens. Add in the chicken and cook for a few more minutes.

Chicken Enchiladas 4

Now it’s assembly time! In addition to your chicken mixture and tortillas, you’ll need shredded cheese and enchilada sauce–lots and lots of cheese. I used a whole 8oz block. Go big or go home!

….I wonder if that saying applies if you’re already home….

Chicken Enchiladas 5

Cover the bottom of a lightly greased baking pan with enchilada sauce (about a ladle full).

Lightly spread about a tablespoon of enchilada sauce on a tortilla before adding the chicken mixture. Roll it up and place folded-side down in the baking pan. Continue with all of the tortillas. (Note: I used a 9x11inch pan and had to use a smaller baking pan to fit in two more enchiladas. You can either use a larger baking pan, two slightly-smaller baking pans than the ones I used, or just do what I did. —-I think that covers all of your options)

Chicken Enchiladas 6

Once all of your enchiladas are in the baking pan, drizzle the left-over enchilada sauce on top.

Then dump sprinkle the cheese all over! Does that look good or does that look good?

Chicken Enchiladas 7

Bake until the cheese melts into a delicious ooey-gooey mixture and serve. I like to eat it with sour cream and salsa!

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

These chicken enchiladas will please any crowd! Don't believe me? Try them!


  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 1/2 lb skinless,boneless chicken breast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup corn *
  • 28oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 10 tortillas
  • 1 15oz can enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large pan.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in pan and cook over medium heat until no longer pink (about seven minutes each side). Before turning sprinkle cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and dried oregano leaves over chicken; then, before removing from pan, sprinkle the chicken on the other side with the spices. Remove chicken from pan and cool.
  3. In the same pan, saute the onion and garlic until tender. Add corn and canned tomatoes, stir, and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Add the chicken to the tomato mixture and stir in flour to help set. Remove from heat.
  5. Coat the bottom of the baking pan (about 9x13in) with enchilada sauce.
  6. Spread about a tablespoon of enchilada sauce on a tortilla before adding the chicken mixture (about 1-2 tbsp for each tortilla). Fold over filling and place in pan with folded side down.
  7. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  8. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.
  9. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes (until the cheese melts ). Serve hot with sour cream and fresh salsa.


*if corn is frozen, let thaw before using

Recipe adapted from Chicken Enchiladas


Fresh Tomato Salsa

Salsa 4

It’s football time! That time when the livings rooms are full of people crowded around the TV set, cheering their team on or yelling at the ref’s calls between mouthfuls of salsa and chips (or with mouthfuls of salsa and chips).

Salsa and chips.

The classic game-time snack. And oh-so-easy to make.

And this salsa is made from fresh tomatoes! Oh yeahhh; salsa and chips just got that much better!


This recipe is super easy and feeds a crowd! First chop up your tomatoes, onions, pepper(s), and cilantro and mix them in a large bowl.

Salsa 3

Then add in lime juice, and salt and pepper, and stir it up again.

Place it in the fridge for about an hour to give the tomatoes some time to release their yummy juices. Then grab a bowl of chips and a seat in front of the game!

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Fresh tomatoes make this salsa the perfect side-dish or snack!


  • 11 tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • up to 3 bell peppers
  • 4 tbsp chopped cilantro*
  • 1 lime's juice
  • salt and pepper


  1. Chop the tomatoes, onion and bell pepper. Mix in a large bowl and add the cilantro.
  2. Mix in the lime juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving


*Parsley can be substituted for cilantro; not completely the same, but it works

**Before serving the salsa I like to let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour because I don't like straight-from-the-fridge-cold salsa; just my preference, though


Pineapple Banana Smoothie

Pineapple Banana Smoothie 1

Fruit smoothies are one of my favorite ways to start my day! Especially in the summer when the thermometer on our kitchen window outside reads 101F and it’s not even 10am–which happened to me this morning. Add in the humidity of  more than 50% and I seriously wonder how anyone lives here. But that’s getting off topic.

Pineapple Banana Smoothie 2

Today’s topic: this pineapple banana smoothie. This is a perfect smoothie to start (or end)(…or continue) the day with! And it only has four ingredients. Yeah, that’s right! All you need besides the obvious banana and pineapple are yogurt and a few ice cubes!Put all of the ingredients in a blender, blend for a minute or two, pour into two glasses, and enjoy!

Pineapple Banana Smoothie 3

I had to take a gulp sip before I was finished photographing! So good!


Pineapple Banana Smoothie

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 8oz glass servings

Pineapple Banana Smoothie

A refreshing and healthy smoothie to start (or end)(...or continue) the day with!


  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 4 ice cubes


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until fully incorporated. Pour into two glasses and enjoy!

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan 8

Don’t you just love crusty breaded chicken encompassed in tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese? Yeah, me too. Which is why I like chicken parmesan so much. And the best part is, this chicken is baked, not fried! So you don’t have to feel guilty about making it: only a little bit of oil is used, just enough to grease the pan and keep the chicken from burning to ashes.

Ok, so maybe it wouldn’t burn to ashes in half an hour, but prevention is key.

Parmesan Chicken 1

I used my dad’s “recipe” for tomato sauce. I say “recipe” because his recipe isn’t written down; he basically told me “saute some onions, garlic, and any veggies we have; add in the tomatoes and cook”. So that’s what I did (but don’t worry, I’ll give you a more formal recipe than that)

To make the tomato sauce, cut up the veggies and then saute them for a few minutes on oil (any oil works)

Parmesan Chicken 2

After adding in the crushed and/or fresh tomatoes, the spices go in next. Nothing really exotic about them, except for the black pepper. It’s in that really cool grinder in the center. We got it from my grandparents’ in Serbia–that is, the grinder, not the pepper. I love using it, which is why many of the dinners I make are too peppery. But it makes me feel like I know what I’m doing. Even when I don’t have a clue–but, hey! I’ll add in some pepper to make people choke on the food so they can’t criticize it! Brilliant, I know.

With that said, cook the sauce for at least an hour (until the sauce has the consistency of spaghetti sauce)

Chicken Parmesan 3

Cut up the chicken into thin slices (I cut these pieces in half horizontally). You’ll need three bowls: one with flour, salt, and pepper; another with the breadcrumbs and spices; and a third with lightly beaten  eggs.

First dust the chicken with flour. Dip it in the eggs and then coat with the breadcrumbs. Place in a lightly greased pan. Repeat for all of the chicken slices.

Drizzle olive oil on top of the chicken and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  And then turn around…

Chicken Parmesan 4

and see this mess and realize you only have 20 minutes to clean it up and sanitize it of salmonella. Work hard. I know you can do it!

Chicken Parmesan 7

After 20 minutes (and cleaning up), pour the tomato sauce over the chicken and top with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Place a sprig of rosemary on top if your heart (and tastebuds) so desire. Bake until the cheeses melt and become lightly brown (about 10 minutes).

(Oh, and that’s my eager-to-eat little brother in the kinda-blurred-upper-right-corner of the picture)

Enjoy with your favorite pasta or bread!


Chicken Parmesan

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Yield: Serves 6 (with leftovers) or 12

Chicken Parmesan

Crusty breaded chicken encompassed in tomato sauce and topped with melted cheeses! And the best part is, this chicken is baked, not fried! So you don't have to feel guilty about making it: just enough oil is used to grease the pan and keep the chicken moist! Enjoy!


    For the Tomato Sauce
  • 2 medium-small onions (or 1 large onion), chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into quarter-moon slices
  • 1/2 a bell pepper (or a whole)
  • 1 celery stick
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz fresh tomatoes (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • a dash of turmeric
  • pinch of sugar
  • For the Chicken
  • *2 1/2 lb skinless,boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, washed
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil, for drizzling on chicken
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • mozzarella cheese, grated or thinly sliced
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • spaghetti or bread, for serving with


    To make the Tomato Sauce...
  1. saute the vegetables on the oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add the bay leaves and saute for 10 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Add in the tomatoes, salt, pepper, coriander, basil, oregano, turmeric, and sugar. Cook on medium-low heat until the sauce has the consistency of spaghetti sauce (1-3 hours)
  4. To prepare the Chicken...
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. In a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, 1 sprig of rosemary (remove the leaves from the stem, discard stem, and mince the leaves), thyme, and parmesan cheese.
  7. In another bowl lightly beat the eggs.
  8. In a third bowl combine the flour, salt, and pepper.
  9. Toss the chicken in the flour mixture; then dip into the eggs. Next, coat with the breadcrumb mixture before placing in a lightly greased pan. Repeat for all of the chicken slices.
  10. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken; bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
  11. Put it all together!
  12. When the chicken is baked, take it out of the oven and adjust the oven temperature to 500F.
  13. Pour the tomato sauce evenly all over the chicken. Top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and add the second sprig of rosemary on top (optional).
  14. Bake until the cheeses melt and are lightly browned (10-15 minutes). Serve with pasta or bread.


*You can easily half the chicken if you're not feeding a crowd; just adjust the amount of breadcrumbs, eggs, and flour accordingly.

Recipe for chicken adapted from No Recipes


Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart 12 Along with  eclairs I made this chocolate tart for my birthday two weeks ago! Rich, creamy and chocolaty, it was a great way to start the first day of my new year! Whether it’s for a birthday, a family-gathering, a rainy day, a holiday, a back-to-school treat, to satisfy a chocolate-craving, or to spice up a bland day, this tart will be a winner for everyone!

Chocolate Tart 2

These recipes are adapted from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts. It has now become my favorite baking book. I love the way she presents recipes: a Master Recipe begins each chapter and that recipe is tweaked to create new recipes. So instead of memorizing 35,683,500,671 different recipes, learn the Master Recipe, understand the techniques behind it, and you’re ready to make chocolate souffles, chocolate sauces and chocolate fillings from the same Master Recipe with the same basic techniques!

Chocolate Tart 3 This crust recipe, like all of the recipes in the book, stems off of a Master Recipe for pie dough. In her book, Ms. Sherry describes in detail the differences between and processes behind flaky and mealy pie doughs. 

Chocolate Tart 4

The recipe makes enough dough for two 9-inch pie crusts. I only wanted to make one chocolate tart, so I used the extra dough to make tartlets (isn’t that a cute name?) which I filled with whipped cream and topped with fresh blueberries. You can use the extra pie dough for anything your heart desires (if your heart desires two chocolate tarts, double the ganache recipe).

Chocolate Tart 7

Before reading Sherry Yard’s book, ganache seemed like a mystical treat. But after reading through the Master Recipe (and memorizing it) I was stunned by its simplicity: boil heavy cream, add to cut up chocolate, tap bowl, let sit for a minute, gently stir, and BAM! That’s all! (I was also shocked to find out how easy it actually is to make souffles; that should be my next adventure in the kitchen!)

Chocolate Tart 11

After pouring the ganache into the crust, I topped it with whipped cream in the middle and refrigerated it before serving.

I must give one warning before giving you the recipe: the filling is very rich and creamy; better to slice it thinly and get two (or three–if no one’s watching) slices then to slice it thickly and have to throw away half-eaten slices.

Just sayin’

Chocolate Tart

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: About 16 slices

Chocolate Tart


    Almond Crust
  • 6 oz. cold butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt
  • Ganache Filling
  • 9oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy cream


    Almond Crust
  1. Sift together the flour, almond flour, and sugar.
  2. Add in the butter and combine until the dough resembles coarse walnut-sized pieces.
  3. Mix together the egg and salt. Add to the flour and butter mixture and mix until the dough just starts to come together.
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. (The dough can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days)
  5. Preheat oven to 350F.
  6. Take the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll it out in a circle with a diameter an inch or two larger then the pan it will be baked in.
  7. Place the dough in a lightly greased baking pan. Using a fork poke a few holes in the bottom of the dough. Place parchment paper over the dough and fill the bottom with a faux filling. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325F and bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Take out the faux filling and bake for another 10 minutes at 325F. Once the crust is golden brown, take it out of the oven and cool before using.
  9. Ganache Filling
  10. Cut up the chocolate into small pieces (about 1/4 inch). Place in a heat-proof bowl.
  11. Bring the heavy cream to a boil.
  12. Immediately pour the heavy cream over the chocolate and tap the bowl on the kitchen surface to settle the chocolate.Let sit for one minute.
  13. Gently stir the mixture with a spatula, careful not to add too much air to the mixture while stirring. Keep slowly stirring until the chocolate and heavy cream have been combined into a thick ganache.
  14. Pour the ganache into the cooled crust and refrigerate for at least ten minutes before decorating (optional).


Recipes adapted from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking Almond Pie Dough recipe and Master Ganache recipe


Disclosure: this post was not sponsored by Sherry Yard or affiliates; all opinions are my own